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Putting an end to slut-shaming

September 12, 2014 12:38 pm by: Category: Opinion Leave a comment A+ / A-

Emily TopperBy Emily Topper | gargoyle@flagler.edu

The girl was around my age, wearing six-inch heels that showed off her long legs and a pair of shorts that showed off even more. She strutted down Target’s brightly-lit aisles, head held high, as people stopped in their tracks to stare and snicker.

Nearby, a woman recanted a thought similar to the one going through my head:

“What a slut.”

It wasn’t until later when I realized just how detrimental her words – and my thoughts – could be.

I don’t remember when I learned I was guilty of slut-shaming. Perhaps the realization slowly crept up on me after conversations with friends, discussing who wore what and how they looked. Perhaps it came from reading books that told me how to act and how to feel, with one in particular stating that “a woman who dresses like a piece of meat will get thrown on the grill.”

I want so badly to be able to say that I didn’t spend years believing that we live in a progressive society where people respect each other for their minds and thoughts and ideas instead of the clothes they put on their body. I can’t do that. I carried the thoughts that society had passed down to me: That women who dress in a way that is considered to be indecent or revealing are not worthy of respect, do not deserve to be taken seriously and are doing it because of their own insecurities. They deserve to be oppressed.

Now, in 2014, it’s time to move past these sexist, archaic beliefs.

What does it say about us as a society that we spend so much time analyzing and criticizing people who we have never met—people who we pass on the street and will most likely never see again?

I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve gone to a gas station or grocery store and judged a woman based on her appearance. I’ve lost track of the number of times that other women have done this to me.

What starts this girl-on-girl warfare? Each day, we are faced with the unrealistic standards on the covers of magazines, told the latest fads we can follow to lose those extra five, ten, fifteen pounds. We read articles about how to please our significant others, spend our last dimes on the best skincare products, obsessively look at our reflection in the mirror and identify all the things that we wish we could change.

It’s bad enough that we do this to ourselves—it’s unacceptable that we do this to women who face our same daily battles.

It’s not just women who spend their efforts trying to knock each other down a peg or two. Many men can’t seem to understand that women don’t get dressed every day with them in mind. I wear jeans when I want to be comfortable, something more form-fitting when I’m headed out for the night. Regardless of my wardrobe choices—and regardless of the wardrobe choices of other women—they are not invitations for comments and catcalls.

Men, take note: Catcalling is not, and never will be, a compliment. Objectification is not a form of flattery.

The same can be said for the recent case of leaked celebrity photos. Recently, a photo hoarder released private images of more than 100 public figures, mostly female. Although these photos are now readily accessible on the internet, the identity of the hoarder has yet to be released.

Instead of turning on this criminal, who stole the intellectual property of so many celebrities, the public is turning on the women for their indecency – women who, without their consent, had their most personal photos released to millions of people. This is not okay.

One of the main criticisms that these women are facing is that they dared to take nude photos of themselves. Many comments on articles published about the photos read something like, “If they didn’t want those photos to be released, they shouldn’t have taken them.”

It is not the first time this logic has been applied. If that girl didn’t want to get raped, she shouldn’t have worn a short skirt. If that woman didn’t want to get taken advantage of, she shouldn’t have had so much to drink. Whether it’s victim-blaming or slut-shaming, women are not to blame in these instances. The people who commit the crimes are.

Here’s my question: If people are so disgusted by nude photos or the “sexy” outfits that many women choose to wear, why do they continue to look at them? Those women had a right to take photos—private photos, might I add—just as I have the right to walk down the street wearing clothes that I feel good in.

Think my outfit is indecent? Look away. Think that celebrities shouldn’t take nude photos, even if they had no intention of releasing them? Don’t spend hours gawking at them on the internet.

What a woman wears or does with her body is her choice, and hers alone. Whether she walks down the street covered from head to toe or chooses to always leave her midriff exposed, her choice is the only one that matters.

Instead of teaching our children that a person’s worth should be determined based on their appearance, we should teach them to look at everyone as though the lights are turned off—no judgment, no assumptions.Why isn’t this our first choice?

Our first reaction to what someone wears, whether positive or negative, is the one that society has conditioned us to believe. What we do next—either choosing to make certain judgments or rejecting them—is what really matters.

We should be voices of acceptance in a world where people, especially women, are continually told that they will never be good enough.

When I first proposed this simple concept to my friends, they instantly stated that it would be impossible. Sure, they said. In an ideal world, it might work. In an ideal world, people would treat each other with respect regardless of appearance. They voiced concerns that this would never happen because we were taught, however unintentionally, that we will be judged for how we looked.

But if we were so easily taught to do this, why wouldn’t it be easy to teach our children to do the opposite?

It’s a societal effort, most certainly. But hate and judgment are learned traits, ones that we pick up in our adolescent years. The same can be said for acceptance, empathy and understanding. Change is possible, if only we are willing to look deeper than the exterior.

More recently, I walked past a girl on the campus of my college. She wore a tank top that clung to her skin, shorts that left almost nothing to the imagination. I felt familiar thoughts rise up at first, condemning her in my mind for her scandalous choices. I pushed them away and smiled at her. She smiled back. It was that easy.

We were just two women, two people, exercising no judgment, passing through.

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Putting an end to slut-shaming Reviewed by on . By Emily Topper | gargoyle@flagler.edu The girl was around my age, wearing six-inch heels that showed off her long legs and a pair of shorts that showed off eve By Emily Topper | gargoyle@flagler.edu The girl was around my age, wearing six-inch heels that showed off her long legs and a pair of shorts that showed off eve Rating: 0

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